Every night for the past two weeks, Andrew Neerman has been staying out late, often until 2 in the morning, bringing music to Portlanders' doorsteps.
Neerman owns local record label, store and event space Beacon Sound, one of the first retailers in Portland to close as a COVID-19 precaution. He shut down the store's physical location, on Southeast Grand Avenue, 10 days before required, fearing for the health of his elderly parents, whom he cares for.
But without income from shows or walk-in sales, Neerman had to find another way to pay rent.
"I just started asking myself what I could possibly do to stay busy, for my own sanity and for the business," he says. "I thought of doing something like [a delivery service] years ago, but I've always been too busy."
The Emergency Record Delivery Service was met with almost immediate demand. After spending the day caring for his 5-year-old child, Neerman heads over to the storefront, where he assembles and disinfects anywhere from two to 20 orders, made over the phone or by Instagram direct message. Then he drives across the city, from the West Hills to deep Northeast Portland, delivering boxes of records straight to customers' homes.
"Typically [it's] porch and run," he says. "Sometimes people poke their head out and say hi. I can definitely tell people are feeling claustrophobic. I've had some nice conversations from like 15 feet away."
The pandemic has even shifted the musical tastes of Beacon Sound's clientele. There's been a spike in sales of introspective singer-songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen—and when customers ask Neerman to curate an order for them, they usually ask for relaxing ambient music or something with soft piano.
Neerman hopes he can prolong the excitement generated by the delivery service by ramping up the label's output with pay-what-you-can Bandcamp releases. But as exhausting as it sounds, Neerman says he's enjoyed his nights on the road.
"It's pretty fun, to be honest," he says. "Like many people, I'm quite concerned about the reality of being stuck inside for a long period of time—not just financially but mental health-wise."
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